McLaren Seems to Be Quickly Losing Patience With Honda's F1 Engines
The time to decide what to do for next year and beyond is fast approaching and it's not looking good for Honda.
The rift between McLaren and Honda is growing. It's getting to the point of no return. An expected engine upgrade for this weekend's Canadian Grand Prix will not be delivered. McLaren wants to win with Honda...but with every failure and every missed deadline for a fix, the inevitable decision must be made to stay the course or find a new engine.
Zak Brown, McLaren's new executive director, recently had a chat with Reuters about the situation. The strained relationship between McLaren and Honda weighs heavily on Brown, according to his account.
Here are some choice quotes from Brown from the Reuters interview:
"Honda’s working very hard but they seem a bit lost. We were only told recently that we wouldn’t have the upgrade coming (for Montreal)...and we don’t have a definitive timeline, which is concerning because the pain is great and we can’t sit around forever. We were eagerly awaiting this upgrade as were our drivers and it’s a big disappointment that it’s not coming. It’s not lack of effort, but they are struggling to get it to come together."
"There’s lots of things that go into the decision and we’re entering that window now of 'which way do you go when you come to the fork in the road'."
Brown told Reuters that the team basically has a 90-day timetable to make a decision. That decision isn't just about engines. It's also about Fernando Alonso.
More than wanting Honda as an engine partner (which they clearly do or did; or they would have dropped them a year ago), McLaren wants Alonso behind the wheel. Regardless of not being a championship contender since 2012, Alonso is arguably the best driver in Formula One. He has driven the McLaren-Honda well beyond its abilities this season.
If McLaren wants to keep him, they must give a car that can compete at the front of the grid. Even if McLaren switches engine suppliers for next season, will Alonso be willing to endure the possibility of another year spent working out the kinks of a new technical partnership? Or is Alonso willing to give the McLaren-Honda partnership one more year to make it all work? Only Alonso can answer that.
The deciding factor in all of this might be money. McLaren is basically operating as a Honda factory team. Honda is contributing, according to Reuters, $100 million per year to McLaren Formula One budget. McLaren might be a major player in the supercar world, but they don't have nearly the amount of capital at their disposal Ferrari or Mercedes do. Even Red Bull has more cash to throw around than McLaren.
Can McLaren afford to lose that $100 million, while then having to spend another $10-20 million purchasing customer engines from a new supplier? Only McLaren can answer that.